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Entry date: 2-17-22 - Hiking! Or do I trust my feet? - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

On a whim, I decided to choose a random picture from Facebook and write about it. Rhondi has been wanting me to tell something about us and the picture I scrolled to with my eyes closed is from a day we went hiking at Dreamy Draw in Phoenix last January.

Hiking and I, during the early parts of my life, were really just acquaintances.

When I was growing up, we would go hiking sometimes. My dad liked to take pictures so we would explore Arizona and went on a good number of hikes, but I’m not sure if I ever gravitated to it. I liked the road trips, mind you, and we saw some great and beautiful places, but I never really embraced the beauty of hiking by itself.

As a younger dude, my idea of exercise was playing team sports. I loved playing baseball and basketball and soccer. I liked football, too, but never went passed a season or two of flag football. I was big and slow, and the coaches always wanted to put me on the line and that was no fun for me. Didn’t they know I could catch and throw? Dumbasses.

Hiking didn’t have a ball. When I got into my teenage years, skateboarding joined the mix of my interests and it was the biggest way I got exercise from 15 to 25, probably. If they had skateboarding paths through the woods, I would have been down for that, but those don’t really exist yet. If I’m ever a billionaire, though, I’m making it happen.

The hiking bug didn’t really begin for me until Rhondi came into my life. When we got married and I was able to experience the area around Rangeley, Maine where her dad lives, I learned to love being on the trail. Each summer when would visit we would go to places like Small Falls or Bald Mountain and I would fall in love with the area, and with hiking, a bit more.

Several years ago, we decided to start hiking here in Phoenix. Rhondi took me to Dreamy Draw, which is part of the mountain preserve that separates Phoenix from Paradise Valley, and I grew to really enjoy it. We don’t go nearly as often as I would like but when we go there, it is always such a nice break from the noise of the day or week.

It kind of bums me out that I didn’t appreciate this area earlier. It buts up to Piestewa Peak, which admittedly, I still refer to as Squaw Peak in my mind more than I care to admit, and I grew up hiking there a lot, but I didn’t appreciate the variety of trails that were so close with Dreamy Draw. There is something for all hiking moods and skills.

Parking is a bitch, sometimes, but that’s okay. You can always find a space eventually as people are coming and going. It’s even a nice little winding drive off Northern and the 51 to get back to the main lot/starting point. Most of the people you encounter are friendly and lots bring their dogs along for the hike or ride.

Speaking of ride, there are a good amount of mountain bikers there at any time, so I learned about trail etiquette quickly. Some are what I would call “Silent Assassins” and are up on you with almost zero warning, especially if you are solo and have earbuds in. Most, though, will give you a little warning and are pretty forgiving if you are slow to get out of the way because of a curious dog.

We love to take our dogs there. Bailey is such a good hiker. She loves being on an Arizona or Maine trail. Sure, bicoastal dogs are a handful, but it’s worth it.

Rose loved the trail, too. She was good hiker and was always looking forward, pulling me along when I would be holding her leash. She did have to stop occasionally to roll in one of the plants that grows along side the trail. Sadly, I don’t know the name of the bush, but if I did, I would have a little sprig of it always on top of her urn.

Frank likes to go, I think, but maybe that was because Rose was there. He’s getting a little long in the tooth to do too much hiking, but maybe I’ll take him again before it’s too late. I think Bailey would like the company. She has been enjoying hikes lately with her friend, Bella J. When the R’s and the J’s get together on the trail, it’s been a ton of fun so far.

I must thank Rhondi, though, for teaching me that I do love to hike. It’s now one of my favorite forms of exercise and I feel like we get to expand our minds out into the universe together when we are walking and talking. The day I took this picture, for example, was a gorgeous winter day here in town and the sky was perfect for a hike. I remember us talking about maybe there being some weather coming, but it never came. Rhondi fixed my exposure a little to help bring in the contrast between nature and manmade sprawl and it came out great.

As I reflect on this being just over a year ago, I think about all the things that were coming that I could not have imagined just yet. Road trips, laughter, loss, and so much learning. The trail is kind of a perfect metaphor for life. Most of the time you are just focused on the immediate road ahead, making sure you don’t fall, and trying to stay out of someone else’s way, but occasionally, you have to stop and look around and soak in all the splendor.

We are lucky to live in a place where you can drive for a little bit and just escape into the desert mountains. There are so many great spots in Dreamy Draw where if you close your eyes and just let the city slip away, you can forget about being in the middle of four million people and just enjoy some beauty, alone or with the people you love, in the middle of nature.

See you tomorrow.

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